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September 11, at Auburn Auburn 35 Samford 7 A game that pitted Terry Bowden against his previous employer put the roar back in the wobbling Tigers

THE ARRIVAL OF SAMFORD at Jordan-Hare Stadium mingled bad blood
with new blood. When Terry Bowden left Division I-AA Samford on Dec.
17, 1992, to coach Auburn, he left a legacy of growth (the Bulldogs
had moved up from Division , III), success (a 46-22-1 record) and
prosperity (the two-game deal with Auburn netted Samford $300,000).
But he also left behind some bitterness: A few people at Samford felt
Bowden's departure had been abrupt and impersonal. ''This game is a
revenge-type game for me,'' said Bulldog linebacker Brister Packer
before the kickoff. ''I'm going to do my best to make him lose his
While the whirlwind circumstances of Bowden's exit from Samford
conspired to make communicating with his players difficult -- it
happened as the team was leaving for Christmas break -- he empathized
with his former troops. ''It was sad for them,'' Bowden said. ''They
never got a big banquet like I always gave them. I never got to pass
out their awards for going to the playoffs.''
But Bowden's fond feelings for the Bulldogs placed a distant
second on game day to the psychic needs of his new charges. After
their close call in the opener against Ole Miss, the Tigers needed a
convincing win to establish more confidence in themselves and in
their new coach.
In the end, Auburn did not inflict upon Samford a beating as
severe as the 55-0 blowout Bowden had endured while he walked the
Bulldogs' sideline in 1992. Instead, the Tigers rolled to an
unspectacular and occasionally sloppy 35-7 victory, mustering only
one touchdown in the second half. The win did, however, allow Bowden
to provide some snaps for eight true freshmen. It also permitted the
long-awaited debut of sophomore Stephen Davis.
When Davis strode onto the field late in the first quarter, a roar
erupted. A much-ballyhooed 6 ft. 2 in., 222-pound tailback from
Spartanburg, S.C., Davis had missed the '92 season because of Prop 42
and had sat on the bench against Ole Miss. Finally unwrapped, Davis
didn't disappoint. He slashed for 30 yards on his first carry, gained
12 more on his second and scored on his fourth, a one-yard burst. He
finished with 122 yards on 18 attempts and earned a second TD by
carrying two defenders into the end zone.
Davis rated his performance between a six and a seven on a scale
of 10; he might not be the next Bo Jackson, as so many in
orange-and-blue expected, but he was a strong runner with exceptional
acceleration. ''The crowd got me very nervous,'' he said.
''Everything started shaking on my body. My legs were shaking, and my
heart was beating very fast.''
With the final gun, Auburn and Bowden had cut their ties with
Samford. ''It's over with,'' Auburn AD Mike Lude said of the series.
''It's no more.''
< Bowden had pestered former Tiger coach and AD Pat Dye to
schedule the Bulldogs, but now he saw that his new team had little to
gain from playing Samford. Nevertheless, the win was crucial for
Bowden. A game he had hoped would boost him at Samford instead gave
him a lift at his new place of work.
Still, it remained unclear how far this not-so-overpowering
victory would propel Auburn. Said Samford safety Erick Johnson, ''If
they beat a team like us 35-7, how are they going to do against the
teams they need to beat, like Alabama?''